BAGHDAD The International Mission Board challenged Southern Baptists to respond to the open doors and open hearts in worldwide by giving more in offerings, prayers and devotion.
"If you're wanting to invest in the Kingdom of God with your money, your life and your prayers, now is the time," John Brady, leader of IMB work in the Middle East and Africa, urged. "We need people praying all the time. We need money. And we need people to come be here and say, 'It is up to me!' We need people who will say, 'I'm going to invest in what God has shown me is an open door.'"
According to a recent report released by the IMB, there are nearly 100 trained Southern Baptists willing but unable to leave on overseas missions because of the current financial shortages faced by the IMB. The shortages are caused mostly because of the numbers of new missionaries coming forward for overseas service has grown faster than the giving from churches.
While the annual offerings increased nominally, the small change was incomparable to the unprecedented growth of the overseas missionary force. In addition, the report found that Southern Baptist Churches gave less proportionally through the years.
To compensate for the tight finances, the board has cut stateside staff, reduced its 2004 budget by $20 million and delayed the appointment of hundreds of short- and long-term workers. The report also suggested that these financial challenges also prevent the IMB from responding to a fleeting opportunity of open doors and hearts in Iraq.
"It aches my heart to see the opportunities that are before us and know what decisions we're having to make," said Brady.
"Today is the day of the open door. God has opened doors, not only in Iraq but really in hundreds of spots across the Muslim world," Brady said. "If we're going to walk through that door, Southern Baptists have got to decide if it's worth sacrificing something."
Brady warned of the ephemeral nature of the work, saying that within two years, the opportunity in Iraq could be gone.
"There are a number of folks willing to come. We just need the money to send them," he said.
God will have His way in Iraq, Brady said. Christian workers from South Korea, Brazil and many other lands are coming to Iraq to share the Gospel. But, he said, "I am jealous to see Southern Baptists be a part of God's plan for Iraq. I am praying Southern Baptists will respond to this opportunity, because they are about seeing God's Kingdom grow. I am jealous for Southern Baptists, not to be the only ones working, but not to be left out."
Brady urged Southern Baptists to help meet the needs in Iraq by giving sacrificially to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering this year; have of the funds to the IMB comes from the Lottie Moon offering.
"I want to say thank you to Southern Baptists who have given generously year after year to missions," Brady said, "but for the many Southern Baptists who've never even given to the Lottie Moon Offering, this is the year to say, 'Maybe I'll forego buying five music CDs and invest that in eternity for the lost.' Maybe this is the year you say, 'I'll give up drinking milkshakes for a year so I can make an offering.'
"The only way Southern Baptists can go forward is for us to take responsibility for responding in these days of opportunity," he said.